Taking a boating vacation can allow you to explore the world around you while familiarizing yourself with an entirely new method of transportation that is available right at your fingertips. Before you invest in a new boat, apply for a license, and head out to sea, there are a few things to know to help you better prepare for the journey ahead.
Welcome to Boating
Welcome to investing in or owning your very first boat! Boating is a great way to vacation, explore the open sea, and get to know more about the waters that make up the majority of planet Earth. Whether you have always dreamed of spending time exploring the oceans and open seas or you are simply looking for a way to add some adventure to your life, diving right into boating is one of the best ways to get started.
Before you get started, it is important to prepare for an upcoming boating purchase, rental, or even an entire vacation you have planned ahead of time. Not all boats operate in the same manner, and not all locations abide by the same maritime and boating laws as one another. Preparing yourself ahead of time for an upcoming boating vacation is a way to be sure that you can move forward with your plans and itineraries feeling comfortable with and confident in the decisions you have made.
In order to legally operate a boat on open water, you are required to hold a boating license. Boating licenses vary for individuals based on your current location and state as well as the type of boat you intend to purchase and use on the water. If you intend to fish for sport or fun while operating your boat, it is also important to research fishing permit requirements and laws in your state or the region you intend to fish in. Most states require annual fishing permits, even for boat owners.
Not all states operate the same, so it is highly recommended to research your state’s boating laws, rules, requirements, and restrictions, especially if you intend to use your boat for traveling, exploring, or fishing and scuba diving. Abiding by the maritime and boating laws that are in place can help to prevent you from incurring a hefty fine or ticket for misusing your boating rig or your abilities on the water.
Traveling to islands, unchartered territory, and even internationally is extremely exciting and can open up a world of new possibilities. However, it is important to keep in mind that you may require proper planning, paperwork, or permission to enter various territories that are unfamiliar to you or are not native to you personally. Never travel to dangerous or risky territories in your boat, even if you consider yourself an experienced sailor or captain of the sea.
Choose Your Boat Carefully
Choosing the right boat can feel confusing and overwhelming for beginners, especially if you have never owned or operated a boat of your own in the past. Choosing a starter boat is highly advisable over getting a larger, robust, and more complex boat. Before you begin shopping around for a boat that is right for you and the adventures on the water that you envision having, consider the intended purpose and use of your future boat.
How do you intend to use your boat? Will you be using your boat recreationally, for sport, or even to travel and live on year-round? Will you be living full-time with your family on your boat, or are you simply seeking a vessel that permits you to travel, fish, and explore various treasures below sea level? When you have a clear vision for the plans you have for your boat, it is much easier and faster to begin seeking out a boat that is truly right for you.
Most groups agree that pontoon boats are recommended for beginners, and you can easily find rentals in most coastal destinations. Some of the most common beginner boat types to consider when you are in the market for a new boat or when you are thinking of renting a boat for an upcoming vacation include:
- Bowrider: Bowrider models cost anywhere from $25,000-$30,000, on average, for a starter model. The model is considered entry-level, simple, and measures as a 19′ boot. Fully furnished stowage solutions, large hatches, and gas-assist struts are all included with most traditional Bowrider boat models available today.
- Center console: A center console boat runs approximately $20,000, and it features the Element XL for those interested in fishing. Center Console boats provide great stability as well as excellent and impressive fuel efficiency.
- Jet boat: A jet boat is optimal for those who enjoy faster speeds but sleek models. Approximate starting prices for a jet boat will likely run about $39,999.
- Pontoon boat: Pontoon boats are ideal for individuals who are seeking a starter boat that is safe, family friendly, and high quality. Pontoon boats cost $30,000 on average but help with reducing vibrations and unappealing rattles that are most common in traditional smaller boats. A pontoon boat can be the greatest choice for someone just getting started in the world of recreational or sport boating.
- Power cruiser: The Power Cruiser boating model is 25′ long and includes a massive and impressive cabin. The cruiser itself provides a roomy cockpit, but will set you back approximately $77,000, on average.
Be sure to take your time to research and compare various starter boats that are ideal for those who are just getting started in the boating world. When you familiarize yourself with starter boats, features, and capabilities, you will feel ready to make a decision once you have found the boat that is right for you and your household.
Watch the Weather
Weather plays a pivotal role in planning a boating vacation, whether you are experienced out at sea or not. Boaters who do not spend time watching and monitoring the weather of their current and planned destinations significantly increase their risk of experiencing issues at sea or being stranded out on the water. When you are unaware of potential storms, waves, and even hurricanes in your path before you head out on a boating trip, you are not only putting your boat at risk, but you are also putting your life and the lives of your fellow traveling passengers at risk.
Even if you enjoy exploring uncharted territory or you are a risk-taker, keep in mind the passengers you intend to travel with while taking your boat out into unpredictable, rough, or questionable weather. Making unwise choices could also put rescue personnel in danger. Always keep a radio on hand when traveling by boat to keep track of upcoming storms and other potential issues that you may encounter along your route.
Consider the type of GPS software and devices you intend to install and use on your boat. It is also advisable to consider a heavy-duty third-party GPS device aside from your boat’s GPS device as well as the GPS navigation software that you may have available on your Android or iOS smartphone.
Maintaining your boat, even when it is not in use, is imperative to extend the lifespan of your boat and to keep it in proper working order for years, if not decades, to come. Upkeep can quickly become costly for a boat, which is why it is so important to conduct thorough research before choosing a boat that is right for you and the life you envision for yourself at sea.
You will first need to acquire boater’s insurance, regardless of the size of your boat, its location, and where you intend to sail. Without insurance, you run the risk of facing hefty fines or even losing your ability to operate your boat, depending on where you currently reside. Having active boater’s insurance is required at all times, including times when you are not using or operating your boat. Consider the cost of boater’s insurance in your state and based on where you intend to dock your boat when it is not in use.
Another factor to consider while planning for the maintenance of your boat is the dock you will use. Not all boating docks operate the same. While some boating docks require proof of insurance and monthly rental or docking fees, others may also require annual membership fees or additional service fees depending on the amenities and level of service, security, and protection you are seeking for your boat at all times, even when you are unavailable.
Boat Maintenance Tips
Maintaining your boat may require annual fees and monthly docking fees, but there is more to boat maintenance than simply paying your dues. A basic maintenance checklist to keep in mind when you are maintaining your own boat includes:
- Engine: A complete engine inspection should be done periodically before heading out to sea, especially if you have planned a vacation that is long or extended.
- Hull: Both the bottom and topsides of the boat’s hull should also be inspected and properly maintained.
- Electrical setups: Always thoroughly inspect your boat’s electrical systems before heading out on the water, even if you recently checked them. Electrical issues can wreak havoc to boats and passengers abroad, especially during an unexpected storm or high waves.
- Moving parts: Inspect all of the moving parts of your boat, such as zippers, tracks, and hinges before you set sail and head out into the water.
- HVAC systems: HVAC systems are utilized to maintain and manage the heating and cooling on board of your boat. While not all individual boats have HVAC systems in place, if your boat does, it is imperative to check and inspect these systems each time you use your boat.
- Upholstery, furniture, and canvas: A periodic inspection of all of the furniture, upholstery, and canvas material used on and inside of your boat is highly recommended. If canvas and upholstery material becomes damaged or waterlogged, it may require a complete replacement to prevent the growth and spread of mold onboard.
Boat Operation Safety Tips
Boating operating and safety tips matter nearly just as much as obtaining a license and permit to operate the boat itself. When you are not familiar with traditional boat operation and boat safety tips, you run the risk of injury, disorientation, or even death. When you are preparing for your first boating vacation, it is important to stock up on the following pieces of safety equipment and gear:
- Floating devices: Life jackets, vests, and PFDS are essential and often legally required for each individual passenger you intend to host and transport on your boat while on the open water.
- Sun protection: Sunscreen protection is necessary to prevent serious burns as well as to minimize your risk of developing any form of melanoma, or skin cancer.
- First-aid kits: Investing in a high-quality marine first-aid kit is also optimal before allowing other passengers onboard your boat is imperative. A Marine-certified first aid kid will include everything from traditional bandages and gauze and antibiotics to flares, rope, and other items that may be necessary for an emergency while out at sea.
- GPS/Communication devices: Always stock your boat with additional GPS devices as well as communication devices such as a HAM radio whenever you intend to head out to sea.
Boating Etiquette On The Water
Boating etiquette is very important to most boat owners, both new and veteran. Boating etiquette includes a guideline for how to respond, react, and interact with other individuals, boaters, and groups you may encounter while you are out on the water. Before heading out onto a lake, into a river, or even into an ocean, it is important to consider who and what you may come across throughout your travels and how to respond during the interaction appropriately.
When two boats are approaching each other head on, etiquette rules state that each captain should turn their vessels to turn to starboard, allowing them to pass port to port. Rather than risk a collision, this is done to help minimize the risk of boats from colliding or causing injuries among those onboard. Human-powered boats and vessels always have the right of way when in the water compared to other operated vessels and boats, including even traditional sailboats.
Preparing for Your First Boating Vacation
Once you are familiar with the boating world and investing in a starter boat that is right for you, it is time to begin gearing up for your very first boating vacation. When planning your first boating vacation, consider the area you intend to explore along with any rules, regulations, or restrictions that may be in place due to the location itself, the territory, and surrounding laws in place on land.
Be sure to stock your boat with non-perishable foods as well as at least 1 gallon of water for each passenger for each intended day you plan to spend out at sea. Even if you do not intend to stay overnight on the water, it is always advisable to stock any boat with a complete pantry of drinkable water and non-perishable foods, including canned goods and vegetables or protein.
Always stock your boat with an adequate number of life jackets before allowing any passengers onto your vessel, even if they proclaim to be great swimmers. No human is a match for mother nature, especially during an unexpected and treacherous storm out in the middle of the ocean. Ensure your boat is prepared with non-perishable foods, water, and a fully-equipped first aid kit.
Location-Specific Items to Bring
When you are heading to areas where sunshine is prevalent, always stock plenty of lip balm, sunscreen, and UV protection solutions. Wear UV-resistant or UV-blocking clothing for hot days, especially if your boat is exposed and does not have a lower level where you and your passengers can escape from the sun during the daytime. Stock your boat with various medications, including aspirin, anti-inflammatories, anti-nausea medication, and even a collection of vitamins. Additionally, you may require insect repellent, especially if you are taking your boat into swampy areas or areas where bugs and other wildlife are known to thrive and be present.
Finally, be sure to research your intended and final destinations. Create itineraries and planning checklists. And, be sure to learn all there is to know about the surrounding laws, cultures, and weather predictions before you set sail.
Owning or renting a boat is not only exciting and a way to explore new and vast areas of planet Earth, but it is entirely freeing and provides a sense of independence that not everyone has the ability to achieve in their lifetimes. As a new boat owner, there is no need to fear the water and the unknown, even if you are anxious or nervous about setting sail for the first time. With a bit of preparation, plenty of education, and a complete understanding and respect for the waters and nature, you can get started with planning your next boating vacation in no time.
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